PORTLAND (NEWS CENTER Maine) -- Maine's new arena football team kicked off its home opener Saturday night, delivering on the promise to bring fans close to the action.
Maine's National Arena League team brought hundreds of fans to Portland's Cross Insurance Arena when they hosted the Carolina Cobras.
There's novelty: players are within spitting distance from the fans in the front row. Balls frequently ricochet into the seats. Players fly into the laps of moms, dads, and kids watching the action.
A roughly four-foot high wall covered in about six-inch thick foam stands between citizens and professional athletes covered in pads and helmets.
One woman was injured when Carolina's wide receiver Fabian Guerra leapt for a pass, but missed it and landed over the padded wall and on top of a woman in the front row. The woman was taken away by ambulance, with what appeared to be minor injuries.
"You never know -- the game's going to be in your lap before you know it. You stand up and it's right there," said Dillan Hayes, a fan from Waterboro. "I'm not nervous, I'm ready to go, you've got to expect that if you're in the front row though."
Similar to baseball and hockey, fans are right on top of the action, but there is no protective netting or glass between the fans and players.
The game is fast-paced and high-scoring. Passing plays dominate on the 50-yard field, which often results in the pigskin hurtling into the stands on a missed catch.
Not all fans are concerned with the possible risks.
"It's interactive with the fans and everything, so it's pretty intense," said Miguel Nieves.
"You've got to know what you're getting yourself into. These are grown men ready to play, and once they get over these walls, they're in your lap, so you've got to be prepared for it," said Hayes.
Bob Dube brought his 12-year-old son, Brady, to the game, and said he is not concerned about a player landing on top of his kid.
"I think the coolest thing is the way the players interact with all the fans. They come up to everybody, give you a high-five, and talk to you," said Dube. "You've always got to be careful about who's paying attention, who's in the stands."
Field goals are kicked through uprights, just like in the NFL, but the goal posts hang from the arena ceiling, and there is no netting behind them, allowing the ball to sail into the stands.
Fans lucky enough to catch a ball are rewarded with an autographed ball in exchange for the game ball.
Throughout the first half, players fell over the padded walls on at least three occasions.
"It's scary," said Dube's son, Brady. "It could happen to you and you could get hurt."
Still, he was excited to be close to players, and he was not alone.
"Big hits, big catches, big plays, I love it," said Billy Hayes. "It feels like you're inside the game, I feel like I'm one of the players. On one play I almost caught the ball."
The "Fan's Bill of Rights" on the National Arena League website does not specifically list fan safety, but does allude to ensuring fans enjoy their experience.
Arena football demands your attention. Keep your eyes on the ball, and the players, at all times.