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Going Soul-O In The Arena Football League
Jon Bon Jovi
I'm a football fanatic. I love football, always have. It's the only sport I really live and breathe. - Jon Bon Jovi
by Jennifer L. Pricci
 [Chorus and Verse] Jon Bon Jovi
Jon Bon Jovi Performs in Philadelphia
Jon Bon Jovi Performs in Philadelphia (Credit: Jennifer Pricci)

One hundred million records sold worldwide, 12 studio albums under his belt, successful appearances on hit television series such as Sex & The City and Ally McBeal, highly acclaimed movie roles in many films including Moonlight And Valentino, U-571 and Pay It Forward, a new screenplay on the table ready for optioning, and active participant in countless charities. Now Jon Bon Jovi tackles football.

"I'm a football fanatic. I love football, always have," the Monmouth County resident said. "It's the only sport I really live and breathe."

This self-proclaimed football fanatic's fantasy became reality in September 2003 when he announced his purchase of the Arena Football League's newest expansion team, dubbed "The Soul" by the rocker, in nearby Philadelphia.

Before purchasing the team, Bon Jovi had to convince league executives that he wasn't only rock and roll. League commissioner David Baker was quickly impressed.

"We're driving on our way to a concert and he's asking me about the emergency quarterback rule," Baker said. "Nobody ever asks me about the emergency quarterback rule."

"I didn't get rich or famous by being stupid," Bon Jovi told the New York Times. "I've been able to surprise people with my business acumen."

Splitting the tab with Bon Jovi is co-majority owner Craig A. Spencer, a local real estate developer and owner of the five-star Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia. The duo reportedly plunked down $15 million for the franchise. Bandmate Richie Sambora also has a small stake in the team.

Those who know Bon Jovi best know he's a true blue New York Giant's fan. Lasting friendships with Bill Bellicheck and Jim Fassel aside, Bon Jovi has become a permanent fixture in the stands of Giants Stadium, and in the playbooks when a play was named in his honor in 2003.

Choosing an ownership role in the AFL, as opposed to the NFL, was an easy decision for Bon Jovi. He cites creative control as a decision-making variable.

"I had to fight hard for the name [Soul]," said Bon Jovi. "Nobody believed in it except for me. Even if you're not a football freak or a Bon Jovi fan, no matter who you are, you think you got soul. I knew I could [make it synonymous] with Philadelphia; take it to Japan, Germany, Mexico and make them one in the same. Now Philadelphia is tied to the word Soul."

Bon Jovi Talks to the Press at Media Day
Bon Jovi Talks to the Press at Media Day (Credit: Roberta Lewis)

"What could I ever do differently [in the NFL]? Could I have done the merchandising deals? What difference could I ever make," said Bon Jovi.

Bon Jovi pulled from Philadelphia's musical style of the 1970's for the nickname. He chose the team colors from factory Porsche paint. The uniforms were designed by a Philadelphia-based company, Mitchell & Ness, strategically chosen in an effort to give back to the community.

The AFL is often recognized as the nation's most affordable and fan-friendly sports league.

"I want to see the little kid go out on the field and get that autograph," declared Bon Jovi. According to an AFL spokesperson, Jon written signing autographs into the player's contracts.

"The AFL is exciting to me as a fan and an owner. What I find so appealing about the AFL is the focus on the love of the game and our goal to provide solid sports and entertainment that's fun, affordable and family-friendly," explained Bon Jovi.

When asked about their superstar boss, the Soul players reacted similarly across the board: they like him, but they just want to play. Quarterback Nick Browder seemed particularly impressed by Jon's personal nature and genuine interest.

"He really wants to know us," said Browder. "I met him once for only a few minutes and the next time he saw me it was 'Hey Nick, how are you?' and he asked about my hometown. That's not something you typically experience with owners."

After months of planning, the Philly Soul is ready for their inaugural game on Sunday, February 8, when they host the New Orleans VooDoo at the Wachovia Center. Seasoned coaches have been hired, cheerleaders have been auditioned, and the climate is right for the Soul to maximize its popularity with an ever-increasing AFL fan base and a second-year broadcasting arrangement with NBC.

Season ticket holders were treated to a pep rally featuring a mini-concert by Bon Jovi's band, which will no doubt keep the energy level in the stands running high into the season.

The players are committed to bringing in wins. The biggest challenge going forward just might be shifting the story from celebrity ownership to the players, and that's where the story needs to be.

Single game tickets range in price from $13 to $58 based on location and are available for purchase by calling Ticketmaster at 215-336-2000 or visiting www.ticketmaster.com.

[ Website: www.philadelphiasoul.com ]

Jennifer L. Pricci is owner of Phantom Power Productions, a publicity, marketing and promotional firm that specializes in advancing the careers and projects of tri-state area independent musicians. Phantom Power Productions prides itself in performing low-cost services for quality artists.
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