After every NFL season ends, football fans are exiled to the void of the long offseason; seven months marked by only the NFL Draft and Twitter beef among players. The new XFL is not set to start until 2020, so what are fans to do to fulfill their football cravings?
Bring in the Alliance of American Football! An upstart league with 8 brand new teams and plenty of former college and NFL stars! The league’s official website describes the league as followed:
“Led by some of the most respected football minds in the game, The Alliance of American Football is high-quality professional football fueled by a dynamic Alliance between players, fans and the game. Fans will be able to stream Alliance matchups live via the free Alliance app while accessing integrated fantasy options with real rewards — for themselves and the players they are cheering on. Players will have state-of-the-art protection on the field and ample opportunities off it. The Alliance will provide players a comprehensive bonus system, post-football career planning as well as counseling and scholarship support for postsecondary education. Founded by TV and film producer Charlie Ebersol and Hall of Famer Bill Polian, The Alliance features eight teams, under a single entity structure, playing a 12-week season kicking-off February 9, 2019 on CBS and culminating with the championship game the weekend of April 26-28, 2019.”
Rabid NFL fans are now selecting rooting interests within one of the eight teams and cheering them on like it’s one of their favorite NFL teams. Let’s breakdown why and how the league works on a grand scale.
1. Timing is Key
Super Bowl 53 did not have the greatest fan reaction on account of the lack of points scored (16 total) and the Patriots winning for the second time in the last three years. Just one week after the Super Bowl, the Alliance of American Football took center stage on prime networks such as CBS Sports and NFL Network. The AAF has clearly taken advantage of NFL fans who were not impressed with the Super Bowl, and it has led to a solid amount of viewers (nearly 3 million) for their first weekend of games.
2. The Rule Changes
The AAF offers many interesting rule changes that create a change of pace.
No Kickoffs: The NFL faces pacing issues sometimes due to the back to back commercial breaks that come in between the extra point and kickoff and the kickoff and 1st down. A majority of the time, it is all just for the kickoff to be ruled a touch back. For this league, they skip the obsolete kickoff to ensure more football action and less commercial time.
New Onside “Kick”: If a team is trailing by 17 or more points or is trailing in the last 5 minutes of a game, they may attempt a virtual 4th and 12 play from their own 28 yard line. If they get to their own 40, they keep the ball with a fresh set of downs. This form of onside kick puts the fate of a team within their offensive scheme and talent as opposed to the lucky bounce of a weirdly shaped ball.
Extra Points: In this league you must go for two no matter what. This allows final scores to vary from the NFL. As opposed to the common NFL score 31-24, you may see a more common 26-12 score in the AAF for example.
Overtime: The overtime takes a more College football approach by granting each team an opportunity to score. Each team gets a 1st and goal from the ten yard line to score a touchdown and a two point conversion. If both teams are still tied after each team gets a possession the game is considered a tie. Even though fans hate ties, overtime games will not be as common due to the new two point conversion rule.
Sky Judge: A new referee is now placed within a bird’s eye view. He can call penalties and force referees to pick up flags from blatant calls. This could prevent controversies that often occur over penalties.
All of these rules provide a change of pace from the NFL and bring a newness to the game that has not been seen in years.
3. The Notable Players and Coaches
A new league means a new shot for many players and coaches who were not able to make it big in the NFL. Some of the notable coaches include: Steve Spurrier and Mike Singletary. Notable players include: Trevor Knight, Aaron Murray, Trent Richardson, Christian Hackenberg, Chris Givens, Matt Asiata, David Cobb, Bishop Sankey, and Josh Johnson. Many of these players have had former NFL careers and strong college careers. Trent Richardson even won the Heisman Trophy! The best part about this is that all these players and coaches either have something to prove or want a second chance to excel at the sport they love. This creates a hungry league, which creates better football.
4. The New Uniforms
Due to the trend started by the Oregon Ducks in the late 2000’s, fans are just as excited and prideful about what their team is wearing as how their team is doing. Whether it’s the classic duds of Alabama and Notre Dame or the thousands of uniform combinations that Maryland and Oregon feature, fans love their uniforms. The AAF offers new uniform that blend classic and modern designs with plenty of contrasting color schemes. In Addition, the AAF will allow plenty of colored jersey vs. colored jersey matchups throughout the season, which increases the visual appeal of a game (The NFL usually makes one team wear white). Lastly, the league features zero monochromatic uniform combinations for teams not wearing black or white. So all fans who cringe at the color rush uniforms of the NFL will not have to bring their sunglasses to watch an AAF game on their TV.
Lastly, with all the Dynasties in major sports leagues (Alabama Crimson Tide, Clemson Tigers, New England Patriots, Lebron’s consecutive NBA final appearances, and the Golden State Warriors), fans get tired of the same old teams winning. This is why the NHL spiked in popularity when the Las Vegas Golden Knights made an improbable run to the Stanley Cup finals last year. They were a new team with no history, and fans were excited to see them surpass their expectations. With a league full of new teams, the Alliance has an unpredictable factor to it. Your guess for the AAF champion is as good as mine (my money is on Orlando). Even through 2 weeks, we still barely have an idea on who will win the league. This is what fans crave, and sports fans have been seeing very little of it throughout other leagues. The Alliance offers a guaranteed new champion.
Overall, the Alliance of American Football is off to a great start, and has the potential to become a major sports league that is on the level of the major NCAA sports, the MLB, NHL, NBA, and maybe even the NFL. There are 4 games every weekend through late April, so let’s see if the popularity of the league continues to rise.