What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
Just when you thought your sporting Sundays were safe from football, it’s time once again for another start-up league in America. This happens about every ten years or so, and every single one of them gets at least a “curiousity” look. I’m a sports fan, that’s what I do.
If you aren’t like me, and didn’t give the Alliance of American Football a slice of your sporting weekend, fret not football fans. As always, Dubsism has your back. Mrs. J-Dub and I took in two inaugural offerings of this new league, and were pleasantly surprised with what we got.
1) The AAF Understands What It Is
The XFL failed because it was a football league run by people who tried to make it too much like pro wrestling. The USFL failed because it didn’t learn to walk before it ran into direct competition with the NFL. The AAF has not made either of those mistakes. In today’s popular parlance, “stay in your lane” is all about knowing your place. The AAF understands what it’s “lane” is. While nobody ever uses the words “developmental” when describing this league, it’s pretty clear that’s exactly what it is. In the same manner that baseball fans can watch the minor leagues, football fans can enjoy the AAF…so long as they keep in mind they are watching a player vector to the NFL that is intended to be an augmentation of the college game. After all, it’s no accident the AAF’s entire season fits nicely in between the two biggest dates outside of the NFL’s regular season…the Super Bowl and the NFL Draft.
2) The AAF Was Obviously Well-Planned
To see this, you have to see beyond the product on the field and look into the leadership structure. At the head of the table, there’s a guy who understands television (Charlie Ebersol) and a guy who understands building football organizations from the ground up (Bill Polian). On down the line, there’s experienced NFL general managers, Hall-of-Fame caliber players in charge of player relations and (shhhhhh!) football development. In other words, the goal was to create a league in which talent could be developed for the NFL, and to give the cable sports networks some cheap programming in the “slow” months between football and baseball seasons.
3) It Already Beats The NFL In Terms of Watch-ability
The first game I watched was between the San Diego Fleet and San Antonio Commanders. By now, you ought to know the AAF’s talent level isn’t that of the NFL, and before you watch an AAF game, as I’ve explained, you need to appreciate it for what it is. Just because it is professional football, it isn’t the NFL. In no way is that meant as a slight…quite the opposite.
First of all, this game was done in two hours and forty minutes. That’s the full broadcast; the pre-game blah-blah, half-time, the post-game wrap-up…everything. The AAF found a way to strip at least an hour of dead time usually found in an NFL telecast. One way they did that is you didn’t see penalty flags flying on every other play.
Look at that video and tell me that wouldn’t have resulted in a penalty in the NFL. There would have been laundry all over the field, followed by a two-minute huddle by the officials to figure out how penalize a perfectly clean hit, and that quarterback would have been hauled off the field and put in the concussion protocol. The fact that this league is football without the all the filler bloating NFL games more than makes up for the fact most of these guys are coming from NFL practice squads.
As long as we are on the topic of officiating, how incredible is it that the AAF lets you hear discussions between the various officials? Of anything the NFL might grab from this league, this should be the first. Trust me, if we mic’d up everything said between the NFL official and replay booth people, 90% of their stupidity would go away overnight.
4) All The Familiar Faces
Maybe not so much amongst the players, unless you are a hard-core college football fan, but if you look at that Leadership page, there’s a few faces and/or names most solid football fans should recognize. But it is the coaching ranks where there’s several names fans of the college and professional game will recognize, such as Rick Neuheisel, Mike Singletary, Mike Martz, Dennis Erickson, Mike Riley, and Steve Spurrier.
5) Freedom From Extraneous Noise
Listen closely to the discussion of this league and tell me what you don’t hear? There’s no discussions about contracts, salary caps, franchise tags, and other financial aspects the average fan either doesn’t understand and/or couldn’t care less about.
Then there’s the big turd in the punch-bowl nobody’s else has mentioned…there’s no politics. Believe me, that in and of itself has the wind blowing in the right direction for the AAF because the average sports fan is sick and fucking tired of everything in the NFL having a political slant ascribed to it.
1) Start-Up leagues are 2-6 Against the NFL
Let’s not kid ourselves, the start-up league taking on the NFL is classic “David vs. Goliath” stuff. That’s why only two of them merged with the NFL rather than fading from existence.
Then there’s the failures:
2) Can the AAF Keep It’s “Curiosity” Viewers?
Sports media was alive today with the idea that the AAF got pretty good ratings over the weekend. I haven’t combed those numbers myself, but lets just take that at face value because sports media was also alive with reminders that at first, the XFL drew huge ratings upon it’s debut in 2000. Three weeks later, the ratings were at sub-toilet levels, and they never improved.
While we could go back-and-forth all day long on the similarities and differences between the situations of the XFL and the AAF, the bottom line is will the viewers keep coming?
I’m pretty sure Mrs. J-Dub and I will be back; she’s already picked a team and started web-window shopping for gear. But what happens when these games aren’t on CBS anymore? What happens when they are on CBS Sports Network and/or the NFL Network. By definition, those cable sports network are not in as many households as a broadcast outlet like CBS; as such those numbers have to come down.
The question is how far?
3) The Dirty Little Secret About The Schedule…
For reasons already discussed, the AAF’s season is essentially locked in as to when it takes place. That means it isn’t facing big competition for the sports viewer, especially when it had a prime-time slot on a broadcast outlet.
But as I’ve already mentioned, that’s not happening again. The remainder of the AAF schedule will be carried by cable networks, and is going to bump up against some heavy hitters in terms of drawing viewers.
What happens when we get to March Madness? There’s three out of ten weekends in the AAF schedule in which they will be up against one of the biggest sporting event in the country. What happens when we get to baseball’s opening weekend? That’s four.
Toss in Master’s weekend and the fact both the NBA and NHL play-offs start in April, and for the latter half of it’s schedule, the AAF faces a disadvantage in terms of broadcast competition for the sports viewer.
4) It Gives Mike Riley Yet Another League From Which He Can Be Fired
The AAF gives San Antonio commanders head coach Mike Riley not just his second chance to get canned from a start-up franchise in the home of the Alamo, but he got to be up for some sort of record for how many leagues he’s been fired from.
This year, it’s the Alliance of American Football. Next year, it’s the reboot of the XFL and another “developmental” league called the Pacific Pro League. Say what you will about any of those ventures, it’s becoming pretty clear there is a growing number of people willing to invest in the idea that the NFL is no longer a viable monopoly for professional football.
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