With the NFL lockout still in full-force, we continue our look at some alternatives of the past that could have been a useful distraction while the NFL owners and players settle their dispute. We continue today with the Grand Rapids Rampage of the Arena Football League.
The state of Michigan’s arena football vacancy that was created when the Detroit Drive left was filled in 1998 when the Grand Rapids Rampage began play.
While the Rampage was considered a new franchise, the team does have some shared history with the Drive. The Drive left Detroit after the 1993 season and spent one year as the Massachusetts Marauders before folding. They were purchased out of bankruptcy court three years later and moved to Grand Rapids to play in Van Andel Arean which had just opened in the fall of 1996.
The team’s inaugural season finished with just a 3-11 record but the team managed to average 9,666 fans per game (10,834 capacity). The 1999 season marked the first of five consecutive playoff appearances for the Rampage, a streak that included an ArenaBowl title in 2001. The playoff streak came to an end in 2004 when the Rampage managed just one win against 15 losses. Despite some exciting play from former Kansas State quarterback Michael Bishop, the Rampage couldn’t break the five win mark in 2005, 2006 or 2007.
The Rampage were struggling again in 2008 until they won their final three games of the regular season to sneak into the playoffs despite a 6-10 record. Quarterback James MacPherson put together solid back-to-back performances and the Rampage upset the 8-8 Arizona Rattlers and the 11-5 Chicago Rush before their magical run came to an end at the hands of the San Jose SaberCats in the conference title game.
The Arena Football League canceled the 2009 season due to financial troubles and the Grand Rapids Rampage did not return when the league resumed activity in 2010. In some ways that final season in 2008 was a perfect ending for the Rampage. As a team in the league’s smallest market they were the little team that could. They definitely had their challenges but they had some moments to celebrate.
One of those problems was financial as the team never turned a profit, yet owner Dan DeVos kept fighting. From the Grand Rapids Press:
"DeVos lost money on the team throughout its 11-year run from 1998-2008.He made that disclosure in an exclusive interview with The Press prior to the start of the 2008 season, but kept the team going because he said he felt it was an important part of the fabric of the local sports scene."