Taking It Inside

Fan-friendly marketing, resourceful owners and a new television contract have raised the fortunes of arena football

David Baker had been working for six years to lift his sport from near oblivion when he heard the words he longed to hear. It was the first Sunday of Gulf War II, and NBC anchor Tom Brokaw was wrapping up his report on the latest round of U.S. bombings in Iraq. "And now," Brokaw solemnly intoned, "back to arena football."

Baker, 50, is commissioner of the Arena Football League (AFL), whose 16 teams play an exciting, fast-paced version of the sport with eight-man squads on a 50-yd. field, usually set up in a basketball or hockey facility. Arena football has...

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