Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘Indoor Football’ Category

1999-2002 Mississippi Fire Dogs

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Mississippi Fire DogsIndoor Professional Football League (1999-2000)
National Indoor Football League (2001-2002)

Born: 1999
Died: Postseason 2002 – The Fire Dogs cease operations

Arena: Mississippi Coast Coliseum

Team Colors:



The Mississippi Fire Dogs were an obscure indoor football outfit that played four seasons in the Gulf Coast city of Biloxi from 1999 through 2002.  Starting in the late 1990’s, a rash of low-budget knockoffs of the pioneering Arena Football League sprang up around the country.  These leagues – often derisively referred to as “ankle biters” by diehard AFL fans – typically set up shop in small Midwestern and Southern cities with underutilized civic centers.  And they typically didn’t last very long.

In this sense, the Fire Dogs were a pretty typical ankle-biter entry.  The franchise started out in 1999 in the Indoor Professional Football League (1999-2001), which featured teams in the Deep South and Pacific Northwest.  After two seasons, the Fire Dogs ditched the struggling IPFL for the equally anonymous National Indoor Football League (2001-2007).

There were a couple of intriguing names associated with the Fire Dogs. During the team’s first two seasons in the IPFL, the General Manager, Head Coach and starting quarterback was former NFL quarterback John Fourcade.

The other “celebrity” associated with the Fire Dogs was Irving Favre, father of Green Bay Packers All-Pro quarterback Brett Favre.  The elder Favre was a minority owner in the club.  He also succeeded Fourcade as Head Coach when the franchise jumped to the National Indoor Football League in 2001.

The Fire Dogs won two league titles during their short life-span, conquering the IPFL (under Fourcade) in 2000 and the NIFL (under Favre) in 2001.  The team went out of business following the 2002 season.


Written by andycrossley

August 10th, 2014 at 2:43 am

2007-2008 New England Surge

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New England Surge Media GuideContinental Indoor Football League (2007-2008)

Born: November 21, 2006 – CIFL expansion franchise.
Spring 2009 – The Surge cease operations.

Arena: The DCU Center

Team Colors:

Owner: Roy Lucas, Jr., et al.


The New England Surge was a quixotic indoor football venture in the ramshackle Continental Indoor Football League.  Team founder (and General Manager and Head Coach) Roy Lucas Jr. was a strength and conditioning trainer without any personal wealth or pro sports experience who started the franchise with the assistance of a Football For Dummies paperback.

Lucas set up shop in Worcester, Massachusetts at the DCU Center, formerly known as the Worcester Centrum.  The building was something of a graveyard for minor league sports going back to the mid 1980’s, with series of failed promotions in pro basketball, box lacrosse and ice hockey.  The casualties also included a previous indoor football attempt, the Massachusetts Marauders of the Arena Football League, in 1994.

The Surge’s home debut on April 14th, 2007 drew a respectable announced crowd of 4,724 (video below).  Nevertheless, the team’s expenses vastly outpaced weak revenues and by the end of the Surge’s second season in 2008, the club was nearly $600,000 in the red, according to The Worcester Telegram & Gazette, and up to its eyeballs in liens and small claims cases.  The club folded before a third season could be launched, amidst squabbling between founder Roy Lucas and his minority shareholders, none of whom had any real money.

Notable Surge players included former New England Patriots running back Harold Shaw and Tyler Grogan, son of long-time Pats QB Steve Grogan.

The Surge’s mascot was a leopard named Surgeo, which was somewhat clever.



Highlight’s of the Surge’s first home game, a 61-6 victory over the New York/New Jersey Revolution at the DCU Center on April 14, 2007.



The Decline and Fall of the New England Surge“, Shaun Sutner and Dave Nordman, The Worcester Telegram & Gazette, April 12, 2009







Written by andycrossley

May 25th, 2014 at 2:12 pm

April 28, 2001 – Trenton Lightning vs. Omaha Beef

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Trenton (NJ) Lightning vs. Omaha (NE) Beef
April 28, 2001
Sovereign Bank Arena
Indoor Professional Football League
60 pages


The experience of writing this blog has only served to heighten a long-simmering suspicion of the personal financial advisor industry.  Years ago, I was working for a minor league baseball team when a friend and co-worker asked if his cousin Brendan could come in a buy lunch for the office.  The cousin was starting out as an American Express Financial Advisor and he had a monthly quota of corporate lunch presentations to hawk disability policies and IRAs and so on.  The thing was, I already knew Brendan.  Brendan was a bartender at a place downtown where we watched a few Red Sox playoff games.  Call me old fashioned, but I think it’s weird to get financial advice from a kid in his 20’s working two jobs to make ends meet.  I said yes because it was an easy favor for a friend and because we’d get a free cold cut platter and because nobody in that front office including me had two nickels to rub together anyway, let alone to invest with Brendan.

When I first heard of the court case against the former owner of the Trenton Lightning indoor football team, I’d already penned an early FWiL piece about an audacious low-life named Jeffrey Fischer who funded his Sarasota Stingers minor league basketball team with millions stolen from his primarily elderly stock brokerage clients in the early 1980’s.

The Trenton Lightning of the Indoor Professional Football League were another embezzlement-powered start-up in a remote outpost of the minor league industry.  In this case, an American Express Financial Advisor named Philip Subhan secretly diverted money from at least two of his clients to fund his pro sports fantasies.  Most of the money – over $100,000 – was stolen from Sandra Kelly, a 90-year old blind widow who trusted Subhan and one of his Amex Financial partners to open her mail and write checks for her using a rubber signature stamp.  Soon enough, Subhan began writing checks to himself.

The Lightning belonged to the IPFL (1999-2001), a fly-by-night indoor football operation that attempted to replicate the Arena Football League’s game in smaller markets.  Arena Football’s founders actually had patents on the sport and sued the IPFL’s predecessor league for patent and trademark infringement.  The IPFL got around the issue by playing without endzone nets, which were the key innovation of the AFL’s game covered by the patents.  When Subhan signed on for 2001 with his Trenton franchise, the league had just four other teams, stretched across the country from Boise, Idaho to Knoxville, Tennessee.

IPFL players earned only about $200/game so most of the players were local products.  The Lightning roster was heavy on guys from Rutgers, Montclair State and The College of New Jersey.  Former Denver Broncos return specialist Vaughn Hebron was the team’s Head Coach and biggest name.  That’s him on the cover of the team yearbook at the top of this post.

For a team in such a crummy league, the Lightning actually drew quite well at Trenton’s Sovereign Bank Arena.  The club averaged about 3,000 fans per night for three home games in April and May 2001, according to The New York Times.

Decent attendance proved irrelevant for an operation backed by the pilfered life savings of little old blind ladies, however.  Sometime in late May 2001 the ownership group fell apart, although whether this timing was due directly to the exposure of Philip Subhan’s criminal schemes is unclear.

The Lightning shut down in mid-season on May 28, 2001.  The team played only six of a scheduled sixteen games, losing all of them.


Philip Subhan was arrested and convicted on several counts of theft by unlawful taking, misapplication on entrusted property and financial facilitation of criminal activity.  He was sentenced to 13 years in prison, a verdict upheld on appeal in 2006.

The Indoor Professional Football League folded after the 2001 season.