Around this time of year, football fans find themselves lost and unsure of what sport to focus on now that their go-to option has gone into the offseason. Luckily, Charlie Ebersol and his entourage of football executives are here to give the fans what they want.
Ebersol is the son of legendary NBC sports executive Dick Ebersol who co-founded the X Football League in 1999 which only lasted two seasons. Learning from his father’s mistakes, Ebersol set out with confidence and began a new professional football league, the Alliance of American Football.
Ebersol knew that the idea of a “minor league” National Football League was a viable option because fans were interested in seeing more football, but quality football would be essential to its success. In the past, leagues similar to the AAF have been formed, such as the United States Football League in the 1980s. Any attempts at creating a league like this, however, have failed.
The main reason that these leagues weren’t successful was because they were directly competing with the NFL and its huge pool of money. Ebersol knew this and tactically came to an agreement with the NFL that allowed players whose rights were owned by an NFL franchise to return if those teams wanted them back. In addition to this, AAF teams are affiliated with colleges in their area so that players from those schools can easily transition.
Once the problem with the NFL was solved, Ebersol and his experienced executive board, including former NFL general manager Bill Polian, former NFL wide receiver Hines Ward and former NFL safety Troy Polamalu, set about creating the infrastructure of their new league. There are eight teams split into two conferences, East and West. Teams compete in a 10-week season that started Saturday Feb. 9.
With curious fans filling Spectrum Stadium in Orlando, Fla., the AAF was set to debut with its inaugural game: the Atlanta Legends vs. the Orlando Apollos. Fans did not know what to expect but were pleasantly surprised. What they saw on the field was actual entertaining and sophisticated football.
The draw that the AAF has is its commitment to football that is more than just a money grab or lackluster performances by subpar players. Former NFL players such as cornerback Dexter McDougle and running back Trent Richardson are playing trying to revive their careers while players who were not good enough for an NFL roster are trying to make themselves a name.
This mix of determination and skill, along with knowledgeable coaches like Steve Spurrier gave fans exactly what they needed entering the vacuum of the offseason. The inaugural game ended in a blowout 40-6 win for the Apollos.
The exciting part about all of this is that there is a buzz in the air surrounding this new football league. People all over social media have been discussing what they saw this past weekend on CBS and other major media outlets.
For the first time since the days of the USFL, there is football that is up to the standards of the fans on easily accessible platforms. There were more viewers watching the AAF games on Saturday than the NBA primetime game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston Rockets.
The fate of the AAF is up to football fans across the country. If they choose to accept it, the AAF could potentially fill the football void that is left in early February each year.