Brooklyn hasn’t had a professional football team since the short-lived, not-those Brooklyn Dodgers of the All-America Football Conference were scattered to the winds, in 1949. There hasn’t been much effort since to bring pro football back to the borough, but in August, it was announced that Brooklyn would be getting a new football team, after all: the Bolts, who will play in the newly-formed Fall Experimental Football League, or FXFL. They’ll play their home games at MCU Park in Coney Island, where another recently-formed minor league sports team, the Brooklyn Cyclones, play baseball.
The FXFL is a four-team league that is trying to position itself as a feeder-league for the NFL. As commissioner and CEO Brian Woods has said, “Our long-term goal is to establish a partnership with the NFL and we feel can do that on many platforms.” There is a priority on signing players out of college or those cut from NFL training camps. Many of the league’s players, including most of the Bolts, have some level of NFL experience.
Earlier this afternoon, a small crowd (seemingly consisting mostly of the press) gathered outside Borough Hall for a ceremony introducing the Bolts to Brooklyn. Borough President Eric Adams placed the Bolts in the recent lineage of professional sports teams returning to Brooklyn—first the Cyclones, in 2001, then the Nets, in 2012, and the Islanders, who will move to the Barclays Center for the 2015-16 NHL season. He explained how the season will work, and thanked New York Mets COO Jeff Wilpon for his role in giving the team a place to play. He sounded a note of rote excitement about bringing football back to Brooklyn, and praised the sport’s character-building role. “No other place in life teaches you teamwork and the importance of coming together as one unit than sports,” Adams opined. “Especially football. Team Brooklyn is gonna be cheering on Team Bolts.”
District 47 Councilman Mark Treyger was the next man to take the podium. Behind him, on the Borough Hall steps, were the Bolts, in their solid navy jerseys. They’ll earn about $1,000 for each game in the five-game FXFL season.
Councilman Treyger stuck to the familiar politician’s talking-point: how this or that thing is good for the people because it will create jobs and bring in money. “A lot of our economy is seasonal,” Treyger said. “Now, people will visit Coney Island during months they usually don’t visit.” Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President Carlo Scissura tread the same path, invoking jobs, employment, sports, and how we need all of them. He had something for the “Brooklyn Is Dead” truthers, too: “The hipness, the hotness…it hasn’t even started yet!” he shouted.
FXFL Commissioner Brian Woods and Brooklyn Bolts head coach John Bock also spoke. “This is a minor league model with a major league product,” Woods said of the league, which kicked off last Wednesday with a game between the Boston Brawlers and the Omaha Mammoths. The Bolts play their first game tomorrow, against the Brawlers. (The fourth team is called the Florida Blacktips, which is a type of shark.) Coach Bock, for his part, seemed mostly relieved that the Bolts had come together in time for tomorrow’s game. It seems that the roster was assembled in just the last month.
Wilpon was the last speaker at the podium. He talked about how it would’ve been impossible for the Bolts and Cyclones to share MCU Park if artificial turf hadn’t been installed following the devastation visited upon the stadium’s old, natural grass by Hurricane Sandy. He also expressed excitement about a team full of players hungry to get back to the NFL.
It seemed like an accidental admittance, that the end goal for these players is to get to the NFL, with all its riches and notoriety, rather than remain in an expansion league earning $5,000 per season. The platitudinous reverie wavered. But Adams, taking over the mic, set it straight.
“After playing in Brooklyn,” he said, “maybe they won’t want to go anywhere!”
Follow Phillip Pantuso on Twitter @phillippantuso.