by Joseph Couch
The date was July 7, 2007. It was supposed to be a somber day for the AFL team from Columbus. The Columbus Destroyers were playing one of the best teams to ever suit up in the Arena Football League. The Dallas Desperados were having a record breaking year and finding new ways to win each week. One of the best quarterbacks in AFL history, Clint Dolezel, was having a season to remember piling up record after record and win after win. The Destroyers with a record of 8 wins and 9 losses were supposed to go on the road and get absolutely destroyed by the Desperados, who were coming off a first round bye with a record of 15 wins and only 1 loss. Except, it did not happen like that at all.
The Destroyers, led by Matt Nagy, trailed early on and even got down by two touchdowns midway through the second quarter. Everyone on ESPN thought that the game was over and that Dallas would be one more win away from the ArenaBowl. Being a diehard Columbus fan, I never lost any hope as I sat next to my living room TV wearing my Columbus Destroyer jersey. Nagy would lead the team on an incredible run as Columbus would score 31 of the next 34 points. The Destroyers leading receiver for the year, Damien Groce, would end up having a career game and the team from Columbus ended up with a 66-59 victory in Dallas.
This game shocked the whole league and the entire state of Ohio. Columbus had a team advancing to the National Conference Championship game. If you are from Ohio, you eat, you sleep, and you breathe the game of football from an early age. There is way too much history in the state of Ohio not to be a football fan. The game originated in the great city of Canton. There are two of the most storied high school football teams in the country in Massillon Washington and Canton McKinley. The capital of the state has one of the most successful collegiate football programs in the history of the NCAA in The Ohio State Buckeyes. The list goes on and on, so having an Arena Football Team make a conference title game is more popular than most of any state’s collegiate team. The Destroyers ended up beating the Georgia Force seven days later, as they would advance to their first ever ArenaBowl. The city of Columbus and the state of Ohio was in a frenzy. Two weeks later, the San Jose SaberCats would put the Columbus Destroyers to rest as they dominated the ArenaBowl winning by a margin of 22 points.
Everyone thought that this team would be back in the thick of the playoff race the following year, but the Destroyers could never gain any momentum throughout the season struggling to a 3 and 13 record. The city knew in their mind that the Destroyers would rebuild and be back sooner than later until the AFL released devastating news in 2009. The 2009 Arena Football season would be suspended and play would resume back up in 2010. When 2010 came around, the Destroyers would not return to the league. Arena Football in Columbus was over. Gone. The pain of losing a team, that you put your blood, sweat, and tears into every weekend, was gone and all that was left were the memories. All in a blink of an eye, the Columbus Destroyers left and all hope was gone.
Flash forward to February 7, 2019. I am sitting at work when suddenly my phone vibrates. BREAKING NEWS: THE ARENA FOOTBALL LEAGUE WILL ADD A TEAM IN COLUMBUS, OHIO FOR THE 2019 SEASON. I could not believe what I read. I read it again and again, dumbfounded, staring at my phone like a little kid on Christmas morning. Arena Football is officially back in the city of Columbus. My childhood memories will become a reality once again as I get to watch the best sport in the world in the best city in the country. As the season approaches, I, along with every other Columbus Fan, find ourselves reading about the Columbus AFL TEAM everyday. All of us Columbus nuts are counting down the days until April 27th and our team returns to Nationwide Arena. I think I speak for the entire fanbase in saying that AFL football is back in Columbus, so why not win an ArenaBowl title this year? The clock is ticking closer to the season, the countdown has begun, and the anticipation for AFL football is back in the great city of Columbus!