Recently, there’s been a lot of fuss about the NFL having ties in back-to-back weeks for the first time since 1997, running the total to seven just in the past eight years. There’s been discussions about changing the rules, arguments about whether ties should even exist, and a bunch of other big to-dos about history and what have you. Those who think the Arena Football League was immune to ties because of the rules…are wrong. Not just in reference to a game that was cancelled, either.
There indeed have been two ties in the league’s history, the first came in its infancy. On July 14, 1988, in the 12th and final week of the regular season, the Chicago Bruisers and Los Angeles Cobras met in a playoff tuneup at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena (the two teams met again at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, IL, the following week for the semifinals). Both teams were fairly assured of their spots, so there was very little to play for. In a game that was far different from the league we’ve seen in recent years (in fact, you can watch a clip of the game here), the teams battled to a 37-37 tie after nothing was settled in the seven-and-a-half minute overtime.
It was regarded as something of an upset, as Chicago came into the game at 10-1 with MVP Ben Bennett at the helm and Coach of the Year Perry Moss (father of famed head coach Les Moss) guiding the team. Los Angeles, on the other hand, was only 5-6, and the tie locked them into being the four seed instead of forcing a tiebreaker with the 6-6 Pittsburgh Gladiators.
The defense tightened the following week, and the Bruisers won the rematch 29-16 to reach ArenaBowl II, losing 24-13 to the Detroit Drive.
Fast forward to 2005, the league was at 17 teams, featured weekly on Saturday afternoons on NBC, and the Nashville Kats were starting their second stint in the league after the first team moved to Atlanta to become the Georgia Force in 2001.
They traveled to face the Dallas Desperados, who with former Cowboys quarterback Clint Stoerner under center, were fighting in a tough Eastern Division. All the scoring happened in the middle three quarters, as the first and overtime saw no points, the latter forcing the league to adopt new rules to eliminate ties that stand until today.
For Nashville, the tie was part of a six-game unbeaten streak that followed a seven-game losing streak, as the team finished 6-9-1 on the year. Dallas stood at 6-3-1 after the game, and finished 8-7-1, missing on the playoffs themselves. Stoerner set a rookie record with 77 touchdown passes that year, and had a decent career.
This game had not just some history in changing the rules, but there were some then relatively little-known names throughout both rosters that might sound familiar now. T.T. Toliver caught two touchdown passes that day for the Kats, Chris Greisen rode the bench for Dallas (he threw all of one pass that year), Dan Alexander didn’t see any action, but was on the roster for that game, and Bobby Sippio, who finished a lengthy career with 199 touchdown catches, caught the tying pass on the last play of regulation.
So yes, before you go yelling at the TV or flipping the channel or going on Twitter in disgust, think about what you’ve seen with a tie. You don’t get them too often, and you may just wanna keep an eye on who played in it.