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Kats Alive!

Posted on Wednesday, May 1, 2024 at 8:00 am

My Take by Mark McGee

The old saying is cats have nine lives. The ownership of the new incarnation of the Nashville Kats hope the Arena Football League team has a third life to live.

When the Nashville Kats Arena Football League team played its first season in 1997 in Nashville the sports scene locally was much less crowded, but soon would be. The NHL’s Nashville Predators first season was 1998-99. The NFL’s Tennessee Titans, who would retain the Oilers team name temporarily. Played in 1997 in Memphis and opened their first season in Nashville in 1998. The Sounds had long been established a top draw in minor league baseball. Major League soccer was a pipe dream.

It was party atmosphere, complete with a hot tub in one of the end zones, with a football game breaking out. The games are fast-paced and high scoring with no lead being safe until the final buzzer sounds.

“Arena football is exciting,” Kats head coach and vice-president of football operations Dean Cokinos said. “The games are nonstop and the scores are higher than traditional football games.

“It’s a hockey game mixed with a basketball game. It is football played in a hockey rink.”

The Kats were sold after the 2001 season and became the Georgia Force. Crowds had been some of the best in the league and the team had gone to back-to-back Arena Bowls, but lost each time. Lease issues prompted the move.

The second generation of the Kats was primarily financed by then Titans owner Bud Adams for the 2005 season. Country music star Tim McGraw was also part of the ownership mix. This time around the Kats final season would be 2007.

It was a slightly more subdued atmosphere but there were loyal fans.

“It was different,” Cokinos said. “It wasn’t better or worse, just different. The Titans were established. The Preds were booming. It became a secondary sport but the original culture was still there.”

Cokinos, who was an assistant coach under Pat Sperduto with the Kats, is a blast from the past. Sperduto was the only head coach the franchise had during both of its stints in Nashville. Cokinos was hired by former Titans coach Jeff Fisher, who is president of football operations for the Kats.

The names and faces have changed for the most part, but Cokinos expects fans who attended the games of the earlier franchise will be taking their own children to games played by this newest version of the franchise.

“For all of us this is special to bring the Kats back for a new generation, a younger third generation of the original Kats fans,” Cokinos said. “It is Arena Football. It is going to be fun for fans. But it has always been like that with the Kats.”

The season opened Saturday night at home at Municipal Auditorium against the Minnesota Myth, 00-00.

Cokinos promises fans are going to enjoy the game on many levels.

“It is all about possession of the ball,” Cokinos said. “There is never a safe lead in an Arena game. You can score 14 points in 15 seconds. Whoever has the last possession is usually going to win.

“It is going to be fast, hard-hitting, high scoring, fun and fan friendly. It is just the craziness of it.”

As a sportswriter in the Nashville I covered both of the previous versions of the Kats, but I started out as a fan. If you are a sports fan and you have never seen a game you owe it to yourself to give it a try.