If you did not know before this weekend, there is a new football league on the horizon, and it is called the Alliance of American Football. Most people did not hear about the league until the games started due to the lack of funds to market their games.
However, the new league’s marketing strategies consisted of mainly social media, and it has paid dividends. Not many people were watching the first two games when they first began, but all it took was one play to change that. Within the first five minutes of the San Antonio vs. San Diego game, there was a monstrous hit that sent the quarterback’s helmet flying. That is when social media erupted. People started tuning in all over the country, myself included. We haven’t seen hits like that in many years because of all the rule changes the National Football League has made. This hit made their viewership skyrocket, and everyone wanted to learn more about the league.
The new football league consists of eight teams. The teams are based out of San Antonio, San Diego, Atlanta, Orlando, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Birmingham and Memphis. All of these teams, with the exception of Atlanta, do not have an NFL team based in their city. This was a great strategy from the AAF because the attendance of the opening weeks games was very promising, and you could tell the fans were all very excited about having a football team to represent where they are from.
The league is a chance for players who were overlooked coming out of college to try and get a second chance at the NFL. Many people see this as the future minor league system of the NFL. This league certainly doesn’t lack talent. Some notable names that fans may recognize are Trent Richardson, the former Heisman Trophy winner, Cristian Hackenberg, Zac Stacy and Zach Mettenberger. They also have some very famous coaches for these new franchises. Steve Spurrier, Mike Singletary and Mike Martz are just a few names.
The AAF is a very high paced game. Unlike the NFL, they have taken away the kickoffs, and they have cut down the play clock from forty seconds to thirty-five seconds. There are also some new rules in terms of gameplay. There is more leniency towards aggressive hitting and less flags thrown for hits after the play, but there is also an illegal formation penalty that can be called on defenses now. The defensive unit is only allowed to rush at the max, five players. The CBS broadcast also introduced a new replay system for the league. When a play is being reviewed by the officials on the field, you can hear and see what they are talking about in the huddle. This provides a transparency that the NFL has lacked when it has come to replay reviews. One has to wonder if any of these rules or changes to gameplay will be picked up by the NFL.
The AAF couldn’t have asked for a better way to start off their inaugural season. On Saturday, the two matches that squared off were Atlanta vs Orlando and San Diego vs San Antonio. While the Atlanta vs Orlando game ended up being a blowout, it sure didn’t lack excitement. We saw Orlando run the “Philly Special” and a high-powered offense that many fans enjoy. In the second game, it was wire-to-wire, and defense was setting the tone. If defense is for you, this game was one you had to watch with big hit after big hit and plenty of takeaways.
With all the buzz generated on social media, this game received 2.9 million ratings. They beat out the NBA primetime game on ABC, and it wasn’t like the game was a bad one either. It was an instant classic between the Rockets and Thunder and two potential MVP candidates going head-to-head. This just shows that football trumps everything, and you can never have too much of it.
People dread when the NFL season comes to a close, but with the AAF that will no longer be a problem for football fans. While I have talked about all the accomplishments this league has had in its opening weekend, the league still has work to do if it wants to be a nationally recognized league. The league has to improve the offensive line play. Defenses were feasting on the offensive line and getting to the quarterback with ease. However, these players have only been together for thirty days, and they will get better with time as they understand the playbook more fluently.
Other than that, the league couldn’t have asked for a better first weekend. With high expectations from the fans, including myself. I am excited to see what the Allegiance of American Football has in store for the rest of the season.