With the NFL season concluding last weekend, the Alliance of American Football took the professional football spotlight this past weekend. The league founded by Charlie Ebersol and hall of fame executive Bill Polian played the first week of their regular season games this past weekend. Many football fans wondered how the league would look in their first week of play. Although there were some bumps, for the most part, the Alliance of American Football’s teams did Ebersol and Polian proudly. It appears that the inaugural season of the AAF is off to a successful start.
Alliance of American Football Inaugural Season off to a Successful Start
The last time a professional spring football league took the field was back in 2001, when the XFL played their first (and only) season.
Created by pro wrestling mogul Vince McMahon, the XFL was hoping to succeed where other professional spring leagues had failed. Partnering with NBC Sports, the XFL had television exposure and the money for at least a chance to appeal to wide audiences. Unfortunately for McMahon, the league’s playing style prevented it from seeing widespread success.
There isn’t much doubt that Polian and especially Ebersol, whose father Dick Ebersol helped McMahon run the first version of the XFL, studied what caused the XFL’s failure. From what we witnessed during the AAF’s first weekend of play, it appears that the AAF is doing everything in its power to not repeat history.
The Quality of Play
The four games that took place this past weekend included everything that professional football fans want to see. When the San Diego Fleet took on the San Antonio Commanders, they saw quality defense from both units. For the fans that got to see the Atlanta Legends go up against the Orlando Apollos, they were able to watch a high scoring offense, presented by Steve Spurrier and the Apollos offense – even if it meant seeing Atlanta’s offense limp through downs in a stunning 40-6 loss.
Great defenses and offenses weren’t the only things that fans witnessed this past weekend from the Alliance of American Football. In recent NFL seasons, big hits have gone missing from NFL games. Coaches are afraid of personal foul penalties while players are looking to avoid possible fines for unnecessary roughness. During the Fleet-at-Commanders game, fans looking for big hits got their fix.
Welcome to every AAF promo reel, Mike Bercovici pic.twitter.com/9xHi9e1p39
— Big Cat (@BarstoolBigCat) February 10, 2019
Unfortunately, the San Diego Fleet quarterback Mike Bercovici was the target of that fix. On a first and 10, Bercovici dropped back to pass. Commanders linebacker Shaan Washington went unblocked and was able to destroy Bercovici. Although Bercovici wasn’t injured on the play, it did provide the highlight of the weekend for the AAF.
The speed of the games this past weekend weren’t up to NFL standards by any means. The offenses are still catching up to the defenses. In general, the offenses played head and shoulders compared to the XFL’s offenses in their first week. Spurrier and the Apollos offense were the best of the weekend. Of course, as the weeks go by the offenses will start to find their grooves. When that happens, the speed and the quality of play will (or should) only get better.
Still, for the first weekend of play for a brand new football league, it was solid. While improvement will be needed, the play of the Alliance of American Football is off to a solid start.
The Speed of the Game
Before the Alliance of American Football ever kicked off, it was no secret that they were hoping to increase the speed of the game. Based on opening weekend, it appears that they’re on track to do just that.
As most NFL fans know, the amount of commercials that are aired during an NFL telecast is out of control. It isn’t just the fans that are watching at home that are suffering, but the ones that are attending the games are also having to deal with the delays as well. It seems the plan of cutting down the commercials during AAF games has helped with the pace of the games. Here’s hoping that the NFL is watching.
But it wasn’t just cutting down the commercials that helped the Alliance’s games this weekend. The Alliance is also using a 35-second play clock, which really makes a difference. And as much as football purists don’t like seeing the kickoff removed from the game, it is helping increase the speed of the games.
Polian and Ebersol aren’t looking to change the core of how professional football is played. But what they are looking to do is improve how football fans see a game. If this weekend is any indication of what they are doing, it seems to be working.
Alliance of American Football’s Fans
As with any new league, a good indication on how it’s being received is from fan interactions. While the stadiums weren’t sellouts, the games we witnessed seemed to have solid attendance. However, it isn’t just the butts in the seats that drew our attention – it was also the interaction of the fans.
What we saw during the San Antonio game really caught our attention. San Antonio has always wanted professional football and that showed on Saturday night. Not only were San Antonio’s fans loud, but they were also knowledgeable about when to make noise and when not to. They helped establish a home-field advantage for the Commanders.
Fans at the games helped make the Alliance of American Football’s inaugural weekend a success, but they also helped through interaction on social media. Our Twitter feeds were littered with tweets from fans talking about how the AAF did better in TV ratings than the NBA did on Saturday night. That’s the type of attention the AAF needs to be a successful professional football league.
While one week doesn’t make a season, it seems that the Alliance of American Football is off to a solid start. If Polian and Ebersol learned anything from the XFL, they know that they will need to build off the momentum from their inaugural season’s first week. If they can do that, and maintain it, they have a very good shot of being the first successful spring league for professional football.
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