This one made me laugh.
The Canton Invaders were a dynasty in minor league indoor soccer in the late 1980’s. The Invaders won the championship of the Midwest-based American Indoor Soccer Association (AISA) five out of six seasons between 1985 and 1990. The club played out of the tiny Canton Civic Center (capacity: 4,200) and crowds averaged only about half of that amount.
Indoor soccer in the 1980’s was all about the light shows, the music and the pyro, and among the best in the business were the nearby Cleveland Force of the big-budget Major Indoor Soccer League. The Force played in the 19,000 seat Richfield Coliseum and, for a time in the mid-80’s, they were the hottest ticket in town, often outdrawing the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. The “Force” nickname owed a direct debt to the “Star Wars” franchise and for several years the Force mascot was a man in a very authentic Darth Vader costume who entered the Richfield Coliseum to John Williams’ Imperial March from the films. LucasFilm eventually got the Force to cease and desist on Darth, but the Force name remained.
When the AISA started up in 1984, the Force were at their peak and the Canton Invaders copied their playbook, right down to ripping the space/alien theme. The Invaders logo appeared to be an extra-terrestrial pest control specialist, descending from a soccer ball spaceship.
This program from a January 13th, 1989 game at the Canton Civic Center pictures a rather tubby young man in a charmingly home-made looking “Captain Invader” costume emerging from a spaceship portal made of Christmas Tree tinsel as part of the team’s pre-game “spectacle”. Scoff if you like at the apparrent shabbiness of the production, but by this point the thrifty Invaders had actually outlived the Force, whose owners shut down the profitable club in 1988 in a state of general disgust about the state of the money-bleeding Major Indoor Soccer League.
The Invaders muddled along in Canton for a dozen years from 1984 to 1996. The team’s fortunes declined in the 1990’s and the former dynasty was no longer competitive on the carpet. In 1996, the team moved to Columbus, Ohio for a single season at Batelle Hall as the Columbus Invaders. I visited a girlfriend at Ohio State that winter and dragged her to an Invaders game against the Cleveland Crunch – another team trying to recapture the glory days of the Force. There were about 200 people in the building and the Invaders were terrible. The game quickly got out of hand with the Crunch scoring at will. Late in the match, one of the teams – I forget which – randomly inserted a lumbering fat man in a poor-fitting uniform who had no business playing professional soccer. (Perhaps the Invader mascot from 1989 all grown up?). He actually scored. I assumed he was a team owner fulfilling a fantasy. Cleveland went on to win 52-18 that night setting a scoring record that endured for the entire 18-year history of the league. The Invaders folded quietly in the summer of 1997.