The Washington Valor won the ArenaBowl on Saturday night, beating the Baltimore Brigade, 69-55, to capture the 31st title of the Arena Football League. Arvell Nelson led the way for the Valor with five rushing touchdowns and three TDs through the air.
More than few things were notable about the game: Both teams are owned by Ted Leonsis, the AOL exec-turned-Washington sports owner. And, most improbably, the Valor went just 2-10 in the regular season. Yet they won the championship!
It all happened because the Arena League has just four teams (down from five the previous season). All four teams made the playoffs. The Valor were actually a one-win team until beating the Brigade in the last game of the season. Then they beat No. 1 seed Albany in the semifinals.
Two years ago, the Arena League had a more reasonable eight teams. But only one team from the 2016 season, the Philadelphia Soul, remains in the league. (Two teams left for other leagues—in 2017 there were at least three indoor football leagues in America—while others folded.) Leonsis brought the Valor and the Brigade to the league last year. The Albany Empire, an expansion team this season, are partially owned by the Philadelphia Soul.
Yes, in many ways this league is just Soul majority owner Ron Jaworski and his friends vs. Ted Leonsis. And it could remain that way: Leonsis says he’s going to bring more teams into the league next season.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were patient, they believed,” Leonsis told the Baltimore Sun. Of course, the AFL will be in its 32nd season next year, so this is more like the late Roman empire attempting to rebuild. Hope Leonsis has more success than Justinian the Great!