The European report card for the first weekend of the World League of American Football reads like that of a typical first-grader: Good ideas. Shows potential. Needs improvement.
From a crowd of 23,169 on a crystal clear Saturday night in Frankfurt, Germany, to a drenched assemblage of 19,223 in Barcelona, the one consistent thing about the WLAF was its fans - loud, gung-ho and ready to learn.They gave a standing ovation to fireworks and cheerleaders as the London Monarchs defeated the Frankfurt Galaxy 24-11 in Saturday's debut of the 10-team league.
They ignored torrential rain to chant fight songs and wave Catalonian flags in Barcelona as the Dragons defeated the New York-New Jersey Knights 19-7 in pro football's first trans-Atlantic game on Sunday.
And, most of all, they had fun - even if they didn't always know exactly what they were watching.
"It seemed just like a college game," said Jack Bicknell, former Boston College coach and now the Dragons' mentor. "The crowd seemed to learn as the game went on. It sounded just like in the States. And then they started singing, and that was exciting."
Fans yelled "Ole!" at good plays and spurred on their team with cheers of "Vamos!" Spanish for "Let's Go!"
"I thought it was great, I felt like a little kid," said Barcelona defensive end Bruce Clark, 32, a veteran of eight NFL seasons. "I haven't had that much fun in a long time."
While the fans, cheerleaders and pep bands gave the games a college atmosphere, the players performed on a variety of levels.
The league's very first play, in Frankfurt, resulted in an offensive penalty. And that game needed nine series to produce the WLAF's initial first down. The teams then settled down to a level similar to that of small-college football.
Despite the rain, the level of play was higher in Barcelona. Quarterback Scott Erney put on an excellent show for the Dragons, completing 9 of 18 passes for 122 yards. He threw a 43-yard touchdown to Gene Taylor and ran 6 yards for another score.
In the United States, nearly 53,000 fans watched Montreal's 20-5 victory at Birmingham, Ala., Saturday night. The fans saw Birmingham enter its third professional league, following the World Football League and the United States Football League.
And at Sacramento, Calif., Paul Frazier's 1-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter propelled the Surge to a 9-3 win over the Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks.