Pro-box Claws grasping for blue-collar fans

May 09, 1992|By Bill Free | Bill Free,Staff Writer

TC Listen up football fanatics.

There's a new game in town called Pro-Box Indoor Football, featuring the Baltimore Claws who will play five games during the next three months at Du Burns Arena on Boston Street in southeast Baltimore.

The season opens tonight at 7:30 when the Claws play host to the New England Crusaders.

If the Claws and the six-team Atlantic Coast Professional Football League find that fans are receptive to this brand of football that includes a penalty box and man-down situations after 15-yard penalties, Claws owner and general manager Jerry Fair said yesterday that the league would return bigger and better in February with 10 teams.

Fair said he needs to average 1,000 fans at the 1,500-seat arena to keep his losses at a projected $10,000 for this first exploratory season. He said the players will be paid a percentage of the intake at the gate, with tickets $7 for adults and free for children.

Fair, a former football player at Mervo, said his primary objective is to provide fans with low-cost, fast-paced entertainment in an up-close atmosphere with the players. Fair said his players will not rush off to the showers after games like other pro athletes, and will circulate around the stands to talk with fans.

According to the Claws owner, the NFL has become a boring brand of football and is losing its identity with the blue-collar worker. He hopes the pro-box game could become an alternative.

"America has a basic need for sports, and football is the No. 1 sport because people from all socio-economic groups can identify with it," said Fair. "But the NFL has lost a lot of its excitement and fans are having trouble identifying with the players and the game because they are so far removed from the fans most of the time. Baseball has definitely moved away from the blue-collar fan to the white-collar crowd. Anyone who goes to an Orioles game knows that. People can't afford to spend that kind of money for one game."

Fair said he is willing to lose some money in an attempt to get the league going even though he isn't a big-time businessman. Fair said he runs a national audit program for the transit industry in Washington.

"The fact that I'm the owner means that I'll be washing uniforms on the road and cleaning up the equipment," he said with a laugh. "I've been involved with several outdoor football leagues that folded because bad weather hurt the crowds. I think this league has a chance because it isn't outpricing itself by playing in a big arena and there are now a lot more cable TV opportunities than in the past."

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