When I tell people I’m going to visit Galen in Umatilla for the weekend, they often ask me what we do there. I tell them that we usually spend a lot of time on the couch watching sports or movies, sleeping in and going out for meals in nearby Hermiston. Sometimes he’ll have a project or errands we’ll do together, but they’re mostly low-key weekends. I really like it – it’s nice to have down time every once in a while.
But we also try to get the true North-Central Oregon “Experience” as often as possible. Last summer we were two of the most enthusiastic participants in Umatilla Landing Days (note: actually only lasts one day) and have since attended a library/city hall grand opening (yep – same building) and explored the so-called “Nature Trails” the Army Corps of Engineers built by the banks of the Columbia (details for another post). We’ve even driven to Pendleton to visit the Pendleton Woolen Mills and hope to pick some Hermiston watermelons this summer.
So this past weekend, Galen suggested we drive up to Tri-Cities to check out their Indoor Football League team, the Fever. He noted that they would be facing off against the Outlaws from Billings, MT. I was obviously going to be rooting on the Fever.
For those of you who don’t know what makes IFL football different from the football you’re used to, here’s what you need to know:
- the field is 50 yards long by 28 yards wide.
- “dasher boards” made of high-density foam mark the sidelines, which helps remind the crowd that this field has a day job as a hockey rink
- the goal posts are skinnier (10 feet wide by 20 feet tall) and hung from the arena ceiling
- each team may have one coach on the field during play (but not IN play, obviously). I’m assuming this is because they can’t pace anywhere else.
- kickoffs are made from the goal line
- each team has 8 players on the field
- field goals are still 3 points, but drop-kick field goals are 4 points
So, you know, pretty much like the weirdest, most foreign and fake-looking version of football you can think of. You half expect Mickey Mouse to be out there in a jersey. But that’s where you’re in for a treat:
Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you: Torch!
Yep, the Fever’s mascot is a giant football with arms and legs, wearing a Fever jersey and a ‘do rag with flames on it. I combined these two photos to try to give you an idea of his dancing, but there’s really no way to describe a dancing football with T-Rex arms and a permanent open-mouthed scowl – you just have to see it for yourself. Galen and I took about 18 photos of Torch because everything he did was amazing.
Then we decided we needed to meet him. We chased him around the stadium for about 15 minutes. It was sort of like a real-world version of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? We were asking people if they’d seen him and following their leads. Occasionally we’d pop into the stadium to search for him and try to get to wherever he was – but he somehow disappeared as soon as we got there. When we finally found him, he was walking away from us and we didn’t know how to get his attention. He had some sort of handler or agent with him, so I said, “Hey, guys!” But they didn’t hear me. I looked to Galen for help, but he was clearly starstruck and unable to speak. I tried again. “Hey… Torch!” He turned around.
We’ve got the Fever.