When the Alliance of American Football announced last spring that they would begin play in less than a year during the winter of 2019, a lot of people chuckled. However, with the success of this league in only a few weeks, who's laughing now?
First of all, the play of the teams in the league is overall pretty good. It is quality football without being gimmicky. Most of the players in this league are former NFL players and college stars who just missed the cut during NFL training camps the last few seasons. Overall, the league is a rousing success, and it was AAF co-founder Bill Polian who said, "If it's good football, it will sell itself."
Former Alabama Crimson Tide running back, and first-round draft pick by the Cleveland Browns, Trent Richardson is thriving with the Birmingham Iron. Former Florida Gators head coach Steve Spurrier is the leading one of the league's top teams, the Orlando Apollos, and both seem to have found their home in the AAF, and football fans are starting to notice notice.
Despite the fact the league plays in the middle of winter, fans remain loyal and are flocking to the league's games, and it's showing. Even when recent news of off-the-field issues, the AAF television ratings jumped almost 20 percent from Week Two to Week Three. The league has even beaten out a few NBA games, Major League Soccer matches, and NHL games as well.
What does this mean? Americans love football no matter who's playing, where they are, or what time of the year it is. It also says that the NFL absolutely needs to take a huge step and invest big in this league.
While the NFL saw an opportunity to open a programming partnership and broadcast AAF games on NFL Network, there is no direct investment by the National Football League just yet. AAF CEO and co-founder Charlie Ebersol wants this relationship to grow, and it's already getting stronger. Players can move back and forth between leagues, and the AAF even hires NFL referees for its games.
This is not the USFL of the 1980s where a bunch of overpaid athletes and owners with inflated egos. This is a league that seemingly is growing an audience and a fan base with only quality football.
You have to wonder if the NFL should consider officially making the AAF their minor league if this success continues. Every other league has a minor league system, why not the NFL?
If a guy is struggling or a player gets hurt, you can call them up from an AAF roster. The NFL is already showing games on the NFL Network, so how far is the leap from showing the league games, to actually buying the league?
If the ratings continue to go up and the play continues to improve, don't be surprised if the NFL does more than invest just their time into this league.
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