HOW THE EAST WAS WON: A FRAMEWORK FOR BALTIMORE AND ORLANDO
If champions are made in the offseason, then so too are championship seasons. Right now is when moves happen, key players are chosen, and decisions with consequences that will span over the entire season are made. It is an easier road for some teams that know what they have in the East, they know their strengths and weaknesses, and they know what they need to do to become better. For two new teams, the Baltimore Charm and the Orlando Fantasy, there is no blueprint for success and there is no keystone player to build on. They can only determine, in their own way, how the East was won, and how it can be conquered this year.
L.A.’s Temptation Nation apparently shocked the world last year by conquering the heavily favored Bliss in the LFL championship, but closer inspection reveals that it was more of an inevitability than it was an upset. Chicago ran the ball with workman like efficiency during the season, and beat their opponents into submission with toughness. Conversely, Los Angeles had the best running defense in the league, tough linebackers clogging the middle, and had no qualms about getting into a battle rather than a shootout. So in the LFL championship the unstoppable force met the immovable object, and the defensive wall of the Temptation prevailed. Showing the others in the East that to be the best you have to stop the run. A point well known to Commissioner Mortaza and well taken by the Baltimore Charm, “During tryouts Commissioner Mortaza made a point of mentioning that the best teams last season won their games up front with strong line play in the trenches,” Baltimore official Aaron Weisbuch, who attended the tryouts, stated, “and I think the Charm uncovered some potentially very solid line players who could be all-fantasy level with coaching.”
But stopping the run is not all you need to succeed; you have to be able to run the ball yourself. The LFL showed last year that it favors the teams that can punch it in from close with big, punishing backs. For example, The Bliss won the Eastern Conference last year because they could rely on Tasha “the tank” Pryor whenever they needed a few yards. On the other hand, the Miami Caliente had perhaps the best offensive duo in Tina Caccavale and Anonka Dixon, but they lost games because they lacked the powerful back needed to score in short-yardage situations. And when these two teams squared off in the Eastern Conference championship, Miami’s offense struggled mightily due to lack of establishing the run, and lost in a 20-7 thrashing by the Bliss. Which exemplifies the dire need for a good running back in the LFL, and the importance of having someone you can count on when the other gears in your offense are not moving in rhythm.
The only way to know what you have, in terms of talent, is to play on Friday night. But that does not mean if you are the Orlando Fantasy or Baltimore Charm, the two new expansion teams, that you cannot have a good idea of what to look for. According to Cheryl Bowman, Fantasy hopeful, commissioner Mortaza attended each team’s tryouts, and shared the secrets of last year’s successful teams: “He stressed heart and desire mostly, in addition to athletic ability” Bowman said. In addition to Commissioner Mortaza, the Fantasy and Charm were joined by LFL veterans, Jax Pulcini and Keira Massette Somers, respectively, who provided additional insight and advice to potential players about what it takes to make it in the LFL, reinforcing that determination and passion for the game is one of the most important elements to being a successful player in the league. But, Bowman also noticed another strong characteristic while watching the Eastern Conference last year that she hoped to bring to the fantasy, “I watched Chicago and L.A. last year, and they really seemed to play as a team, and I think that is what made them the best last year.” Bowman understands that to win in the LFL, you must win as a team, and that cohesiveness will always be one of the most important elements to success in the Eastern Conference.
The Charm and Fantasy both reported they are looking for pure athletes that can play many positions and will make instant impacts on their team. They want their team to make a difference early, and they want to win immediately. And if they want to do all this, they will have to establish an All-Star caliber running back to rely on during the grind of the LFL season, in addition to a solid defensive line. But, perhaps most importantly, they will have to pick players like Bowman, who recognize that putting the team above all else is the key to winning the East.