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Feb 21, 2022

We reminisce about the original Arena Football League and its curious dalliances with the New York metropolitan area, with veteran Newsday sports writer/columnist Gregg Sarra - who not only regularly covered franchises like the 1997-98 New York CityHawks and the Long Island-based New York Dragons (2001-08), but also even played an actual game with one of them - and lived to tell (and write) about it.
After beat-reporting two woeful seasons' worth of CityHawks games at the "World's Most Famous Arena" (Madison Square Garden had hastily lobbied the league for its own expansion club when it got wind of a team coming to the nearby New Jersey Meadowlands: the Red Dogs) - Sarra was both surprised and giddy when he heard yet another team would be coming to the market - this time to his hometown Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
The Dragons were actually the relocated Iowa Barnstormers (1995-2000) - a smaller-market sensation owned by league founder (and episodes 43 & 44 guest) Jim Foster - who sold the franchise to New York Islanders NHL owner Charles Wang, with the blessing of an AFL management eager to finally succeed in the nation's largest media market.
On April 8, 2001, Sarra got the literal "inside story" of the new club - when, at Wang's suggestion, he suited up for and saw last-minute action in the Dragons' first-ever home preseason match - a Plimptonian participatory experience that gave his Newsday readers a true sense of what the indoor game was all about. 
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