Say hello to the Alliance of American Football, a venture scheduled to get underway right after the 2019 Super Bowl. It is just what we need – another football league.
Now, instead of having to wait around for the April draft to scratch their football itch, fans will have real games to satisfy the craving for players trying to knock each other silly.
It is not like we haven’t been down this road before. Remember the United States Football League which started in the spring and then disappeared when one of the owners decided it ought to be playing in the fall instead. And, of course, there was the World Football League, which drowned in a sea of debt. And don’t forget the short-lived XFL, with one of the players wearing a jersey that identified him as “He Hate Me’’ which seemed, well, odd.
They were all one-trick ponies, short-lived adversaries for the National Concussion League, an enterprise that owns a day of the week. And still they try, determined that this time. with this business model and these investors, they will triumph.
They start with some recognizable football names. Hall of Fame general manager Bill Polian is co-founder and Head of Football. He was in charge of a Buffalo Bills team that went to four straight Super Bowls and came up empty every time. The other co-founder is Charlie Ebersol, whose father, Dick, was NBC sports chairman and the moving force behind the ill-fated XFL. That venture is ticketed for a reincarnation in 2020, not that we really need it.
The AAF management team includes other familiar football names like Justin Tuck, Hines Ward, J.K. McKay and Troy Polamalu.
The new league comes with innovations. For example, there will be no kickoffs in an effort to reduce injures. Possessions start at the 25-yard line. There will be no onside kicks. Instead, teams will get fourth-and-10 from their 35-yard line. There will be no PATs, Instead, two-point conversions will be mandatory. The play clock will be 30 seconds instead of the 45 of the other league.
Rosters for the eight league-owned teams will be limited to 50 players for a 10-game season followed by a four-team playoff. The average ticket price will be $35, which is about what it costs to park your car if you’re going to that other league’s games. There will be no TV timeouts and 60 percent fewer commercials leading to what the founders hope will be 2½ hour games instead of the marathons most pro games are these days.
Underwriters for this operation are Silicon Valley companies and CBS, which will function as the broadcast partner and show the season opener and championship game on regular television and one game each week on its cable network.
And then there is the wrinkle that makes the new league truly unique. Fans will be able to stream games on their smart phone app and play America’s newest fascination, Fantasy Football during games. That means a lot of device clicking in the stands.
Players will be culled from all over the landscape, those with no interest in college football. non-drafted free agents, players cut from other teams, anywhere and everywhere.
This is a football. Here’s a helmet and some pads. Now get out there and play.