Is the Alliance of American Football going to be a financial success? That’s not certain and one weekend, albeit a successful first weekend in terms of positive reviews and decent television ratings, isn’t enough data to make any final declaration.
In a way, the AAF inaugural was reminiscent of recent hit movies like “Aquaman.” There was a lot of color in those eye-popping uniforms and neatly scrubbed stadiums, (There is only so much that can be done with Legion Field, though.) There was action, perhaps not as frenetic as fans would have liked. And while it wasn’t Superman or Batman (or Iron Man or Captain America, if you prefer a different universe), it was football in the way that Aquaman is, technically, a superhero. You don’t have to be first tier to put on a good show.
There were negatives. The main one is unavoidable. There are only 25 or so humans on the planet today who can be legitimately described as “really good quarterbacks” and none of them are toiling away for AAF wages. On the other hand, there seems to be an ever-increasing number of big, strong fast guys who can play defense. That imbalance may prevent the AAF from having an abundance of high-scoring games, the sort that most fans seem to prefer. (Listen to how many casual football watchers are still griping about the Super Bowl.) Some innovation is good — more on that in a moment — but if you gimmick the rules too much, you are going to have people saying “that’s not football,” which is not what the AAF wants.
The Birmingham Iron put a solid product on the field and football will always sell in this state. There was a bit of novelty and a bit of nostalgia. It was good to see several former SEC players, including some from Alabama, in action. Trent Richardson’s two touchdowns were a highlight (especially behind an offensive line that can kindly be described as a “work in progress”) but 2019 Richardson is a step or two slower than 2011 Richardson. That’s the nature of the position (and human physiology in general) but if Richardson’s goal is to get one more shot at the NFL, that’s going to be a tough path.
Setting aside the glimpses of the good old days — who doesn’t enjoy seeing Steve Spurrier on the sidelines without the look of disgust that he had for his last two years at South Carolina? — the most fascinating aspect of the AAF weekend was its role as a rules laboratory.
The no-kickoff rule takes some adjustment but is probably the future of the sport, like it or not. The requirement to go for two points after a touchdown was fine. Most Alabama fans probably found it downright fantastic. I didn’t like the “illegal defense” calls when there were too many pass rushers, or when they came from the wrong place, but, as previously noted, the league offenses might need a boost. And the SkyJudge overhead camera was great.
The best thing was something hard to quantify. The AAF just seemed friendlier to its average fans, more interested in feedback. The NFL quit caring a long time ago and it’s a slope that big-time college football has to fight to avoid. (Thank goodness for students.)
I think there is always an appetite for football and it’s best when served with a side dish of fun.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.