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By Ray Bentley 

With the SFL’s 12th Championship set as the Denver Nightwings attempt to take down the Alaska Storm at home, I stopped in for a quick chat with Storm owner and head coach Max “Mighty” Paul in his mountaintop chalet. After passing me through the requisite security checks and several full body cavity searches, I made my way into Mr. Paul’s mansion. As I walked the halls, I passed by two rooms filled with stuffed lions. A third door suddenly had Max appear from its frame, and a peek inside revealed he was preparing the room as a tableau for some Kandorian avians. He invited me further inward, and we made our way to an ornate smoking room with large, overstuffed red leather chairs in front of a roaring fireplace. On the mantle were his two SFL Championship trophies, and in the fireplace, the bodies of the Baltimore Vultures. Confident that I was now fully unnerved, Mr. Paul offered me a drink, raised a toast, and looked me straight on as I nervously downed the chocolate milk. “So, Mr. Bentley. You said you had some questions for me?”

Ron Cockren leading the Storm to their second consecutive Championship win over Tallahassee

RB: Well, first off, thank you for taking the time, and congratulations on making it to a historic and record-breaking third championship in a row! How does it feel to make it back to the dance again, especially after starting the season off with a loss to (looks at fireplace)… for the third time?

MP: It’s gratifying, knowing that the team’s hard work, cohesion, and the long hours are producing dividends. I don’t think we’ll fully grasp the magnitude of the feat until it’s come to its conclusion.

RB: I’ve got to ask: how do you feel about the upstart Denver Nightwings? 8-0 to begin the season, then a slide at the end, but now they’ve taken out the Sparrows and Lobos and are looking to continue that underdog streak. How do they stack up against your previous opponents, the Tallahassee Pride?

MP: They’re a great team. Well rounded. Offensively, they’re very similar, relying on a powerful ground attack to set the stage, then unleashing deep throws to their threats. Defensively, they differ in approach as the Pride leaned on their star studded D-line to set the tone. The Nightwings’ strength lies in their secondary and their bend but don’t break philosophy.

RB: How has this season compared to the previous runs to the championship? What do you feel has worked, and what do you want to improve upon? Wait, I forgot to make this question weird!

MP: This season brought a new challenge as the league introduced a new format that led us to enter the season with the 3rd toughest schedule in the league. (Baltimore had the toughest.) There was a feeling out process as we had to get accustomed to our roster and how to maximize each players production. I’d say we adjusted quite well!

Robert Merrill has adjusted nicely from receiver to running back

RB: Looking forward, what can we expect from a near-threepeat Alaska Storm team in the upcoming offseason? Do they hinge on whether or not the team can take home the glory again? What… what exactly did you put in this chocolate milk?

MP: As always, regardless of outcome, we’ll go into the off-season looking to change things up a little to remain ahead of the curve. (Or curb. Can’t let that curb catch up to you!). And as to the chocolate milk, I’m glad you’re enjoying it. I added a little cinnamon to spice things up!

RB: I’m certain at some point you’ve heard some handsome idiot rabble-rousing about the Unofficial Championship Title – a game-to-game title that will be up for grabs in this matchup, as Denver now holds it. Alaska would be re-claiming the title they lost to the Vultures at the beginning of the season – do you see that and the Semi-Final win over Baltimore as vindication?

MP: I tell my guys all the time, “Don’t worry about the rhetoric and narrative about us. Keep trucking along and do the little things correctly and watch as the bigger things take care of themselves!” It felt good to finally defeat my old boss (Co owner of the Vultures, TJ), but if we don’t finish the job on Monday night, this season will be seen as a failure.

RB: If you could have any X-Men’s powers, who would it be, and why? I’d totally be Magneto.

MP: We’re name the Alaska STORM. To be able to either create disturbances or make the dissipate would be epic. Also, breathing underwater or outer space means there’s no limit to where we could go!

RB: Tell me a little bit about your team. It’s a mix of fresh faces and familiar vets, including the exciting addition of Kevin Bane from former Championship antagonists the Pride. How has the team progressed all season?

MP: They’ve been great all season, chiming in with suggestions, voting on which jersey we’ll wear game in and game out. Representing the team in a a fun, yet respectful manner in public channels. Bane has been an awesome addition and compliments Big Sexy well. Couldn’t ask for a better group of men to lead!

Kevin Bane has proven to be one of the signings of the season

RB: Follow up to the last question; in a hypothetical situation, which Alaska Storm team would win the championship, if pitted against its former and future selves? S10, 11, or this team?

MP: That’s like determining who your favorite child is. It’s darn near impossible to get a correct answer. They all had great strengths and few weaknesses.

RB: What’s the best song you’ve got on deck to get people hyped up for the championship game? What’s the best song you’ve got on deck to get your team hyped up to take the field?

MP: Always have some Andy Mineo, Aha, or K.B. on deck ready to go. 100 featuring Andy is always a good hype option.

RB: Finally, and again, I’d like to thank you for taking the time for this interview, but I’d like to ask you this question: Where do you see yourself, and the Alaska Storm, 5 seasons from now, as well as, what is the best candy bar?

MP: In 5 seasons? I’d hopefully completely removed from coaching and have a coaching staff handling the on field preparation. It would free me to work pushing the Storm brand to new heights via sponsors or other media. The Storm? To remain a competitive as possible which in turn, optimistically, forces other teams to elevate their level of performance. You can never go wrong with Oh Henry!

And with his final word and a quick, almost telepathic nod, several large goons in sweaters labeled ALASKA promptly grabbed me by my collar and waist and threw me off of Paul’s balcony, into the raging waters of the Nenana River below. Fortunately for readers and yours truly, the chocolate milk provided me with the strength and bone density needed to survive the frigid waters, and my large amount of body fat kept me afloat until I reached Healy. We’ll see you all at the Championship Game, Monday night!

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