He Hate Me, He Hate Me Not.
Welcome to Arena football, Las Vegas style.
Las Vegas has a team, courtesy of New Jersey, called the Gladiators. Now seeing the point spreads posted at most sports books gives league games a whole new meaning.
"It’s nice to have something in football that can keep us busy through May," said Tom Vanderhoof, Arena football oddsmaker at Las Vegas Sports Consultants. "This year just about all the books are carrying the lines. I remember it used to be just the IP (Imperial Palace) and Harrah’s that had them up."
The Gladiators opened the season with a 60-48 loss at Los Angeles after opening as a 4-point underdog. LV visits Arizona this Sunday at 3 p.m. Then comes the first of eight home games at Thomas & Mack Center on Monday, Feb. 17 against Tampa Bay at 7 p.m.
Since the Arena game is indoor football and different from the NFL, setting lines becomes an interesting proposition. Vanderhoof breaks it down to its simplist form.
"I have power ratings for teams all based on final scores," he said. "It’s a lot like college football. As the games come in, you see how the betting has gone. If your number wasn’t sharp enough, you try and get it the way it should be."
With the reduced field of play and virtual absence of any running plays, Vanderhoof said it doesn’t do much good to examine passing or defensive stats.
"Arena football is all passing," he said. "There are certain places, like Orlando, Tampa Bay and Arizona where teams have been based for awhile and a good homefield advantage has been developed. But, most franchises don’t stay around long enough to develop a steady fan-base."
That will be the challenge ahead for Las Vegas, which enjoyed a modicum of success in the XFL with the Outlaws and cult hero He Hate Me (Rod Smith). There are some similarities between the Vegas teams, most notably a television contract with NBC. And, one big difference -- no He Hate Me.
"I don’t know if success brings crowds or crowds bring success," Vanderhoof said. "I thought Outlaws had a following here and it may carry over to the Gladiators. Certainly having NBC showing games each week will help, along with having Jerry Jones (Dallas) and John Elway (Colorado) as team owners."
Las Vegas Gladiators: (Frank Haege, coach). Finished with fourth best record (9-5) in the Arena league last year when playing at New Jersey. Won just twice the year before.
Los Angeles Avengers: QB Tony Graziani played several years for the NFL Atlanta Falcons. Made the playoffs last season.
Indiana Firebirds: Entering their 14th year in the league. Won the Arena Bowl title in 1999 with a franchise-best 14-3 record. Formerly the Albany (NY) Firebirds.
Grand Rapids Rampage: The 2001 Arena Bowl champs. Now in their sixth year in the league. Fell to 8-6 last year.
Georgia Force: In their second year of existence. Re-located from Nashville. Finished with a 6-8 record last season.
Detroit Fury: Was a 2001 expansion team. In two seasons, Fury players have won league honors for Rookie of the Year, Lineman of the Year and the Hero Award.
Dallas Desperados: There is a clear Cowboys flavor with Joe Avezzano as coach and Jones as the owner. In a division with Chicago, Indiana and Grand Rapids.
Colorado Crush: This franchise should have instant credibility and popularity with Elway as the president and CEO. Broncos owner Pat Bowlen is a big part of the mix.
Buffalo Destroyers: In their fifth season of Arena football. Feature the 2002 Coach of the Year winner Ron Selesky, who led Buffalo to the playoffs.
Arizona Rattlers: One of the staple franchises in the league, now in their 12th season. Former Cowboys and Arizona State QB Danny White is one of the league’s top names. Rattlers won the Arena title in 1994 and 1997.
Carolina Cobras: First season in Charlotte and fourth in the league. Veteran Arena league QB Mike Hold (South Carolina) is the head coach.
Chicago Rush: Third year in the league. Went 7-7 in the initial season and advanced to the league semifinals last year. Coached by former NFL QB Mike Hohensee.
New York Dragons: Ninth year of operation and third on Long Island. The franchise that produced Kurt Warner during six playoff seasons.
Orlando Predators: An original Arena League member from 1991. Have qualified for the playoffs 12 consecutive years, winning the title in 1998 and 2000.
San Jose SaberCats: Defending Arena champs. Feature kicker Daron Alcorn, who led the league in field goal accuracy. Boast a 35-7 record since 2000.
Tampa Bay Storm: Another of the veteran Arena League franchises. Opened the 2003 season with a 60-20 victory over Carolina in St. Petersburg.
GLADIATORS AT HOME
Date opponent time
2-17 tampa bay 7 p.m.
3-02 san jose 3 p.m.
3-16 chicago 3 p.m.
3-29 georgia 7 p.m.
4-05 colorado 7 p.m.
4-27 detroit 3 p.m.
5-03 new york 7 p.m.
5-18 buffalo 3 p.m.
end of regular season