Photos by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey
One of the most fun parts of watching indoor football, usually, is that any ball that leaves the field of play can be kept by the fan who catches that ball – hence there is usually a mad scramble for these loose balls, and fans will often crowd the first row behind the end zones, to try and catch balls as they slide down the net, or fans will sometimes line up in the upper rows behind the end zones, in case any field goals or extra point balls make it over the net.
Fans are also warned to keep alert for loose balls, and often reminded that they can keep the ball if they catch it; some PA announcers have even been known to mock fans who try to give it back. You will also sometimes see stadium staffers retrieve loose balls that don’t quite make it into the stands, and hand them to a lucky fan (usually a little kid, not that this writer is at all jealous).
Unfortunately, at the San Antonio Gunslingers game on June 4th, 2023, it was announced that due to a league-wide ball shortage for the National Arena League fans would not be able to keep any balls that left the field of play during the game – staffers were on hand to make sure the balls were returned, and before seemingly every kickoff or extra point, the PA announcer reminded fans of this fact; this same announcement was made over a dozen times during the game. This writer was not able to determine the reason for the shortage, nor for how long the situation might continue.
I will mention, however, that I also attended a West Texas Warbirds game on June 3rd, and though no announcement was made about the ball shortage, I did notice fans returning the loose balls to staff members during that game as well. I also noticed that no official-size balls were sold at either game (only souvenir-sized ones), and none of the NAL team websites listed any footballs for sale (only clothing, hats, and glassware).
It is unfortunate that the supply chain issues we all heard about during Covid, but most thought were over, may now have touched our sport of football – it is this writer’s sincere hope that the issue will be resolved quickly so that fans will once again be able to enjoy one of the best parts of indoor football.