Getting used to spring football is something the American sports fan will have to adjust to immediately. This past Saturday night the Alliance Of American Football kicked off with two games out the shoot.
The early numbers are in.
The Alliance Of American Football outdrew the NBA on ABC telecast of Rockets/Thunder pulling in 2.9 million viewers for Saturday night’s debut. Not too shabby for a league that’s looking to establish itself as a genuine extension banking on the consumers love of football merely a full week after Super Bowl 53.
The product? Well it definitely was fast paced. The rules are tweaked in comparison to the NFL. For example:
- Instead of kickoffs, which the league decided slow down the game and create too many injuries, the ball will simply start on the 25-yard line after each score or at the beginning of each half.
- Instead of kicking an extra point, teams have to attempt a two-point conversion after every touchdown.
- Onside kicks have been replaced by an onside conversion. If a team is trailing by 17 points, or there is five minutes or less left in the fourth quarter, they can opt to get the ball on their own 28-yard line and try to convert a 4th-and-12.
- There will be no TV timeouts and fewer full-screen commercials. Additionally, there will be a sky judge referee who can communicate with the officials on the field in real-time so the refs won’t have to go under the hood.
- In overtime, each team will get the ball at the opposing 10-yard line. They’ll have one possession to score a touchdown, then attempt a two-point conversion. The game will end in a tie if neither team scores.
I managed to watch the first half of the Orlando Apollos and the Atlanta Legends before putting my youngest one to sleep for the night. A bit sloppy at times. Maybe most of that was early nerves. But otherwise still good enough of a product to wet my appetite for more football. The AAF in all honesty have the NFL to thank for that. This past season as I have spoken about on my podcast numerous times in recent months was one of the most enjoyable I’ve witnessed in years. Many more agree. So there is momentum coming into this for AAF.
The challenge moving forward is sustainability. Even the XFL, who gets their crack at spring football in the spring of 2020 came out the gate guns a-blazing when they debuted in 2001. The difference was Vince McMahon came in with bluster and overconfidence and quite frankly unrealistic expectations. Plus it was much too gimmicky which did eventually turn off even the hardcore football fan. The XFL folded one year in.
In the AAF’s case, the league seems to have realistic goals and expectations coming in. Based on the optics, the league feels humbled just to be here. The luminaries involved do validate it as well. We all are familiar with names involved in some capacity. Bill Polian, Steve Spurrier, Hines Ward and Dennis Erickson for starters.
The biggest challenge honestly for the AAF comes down to fan behavior. I don’t necessarily mean controlling potential violence in the stands (though that’s always important). I’m talking about getting the brain programmed to the idea of football existing in the months of February, March and April. Let’s face it in an era where everyone is on their smart phone or locked into their Netflix accounts it’s a reality that even the most ardent football fan will have to get used to.
The NBA season will heat up. March Madness is around the corner. And the NBA postseason will begin in mid-April.
That said the optics look good. I’m rooting for the AAF. And I will be watching weekly.