It’s tough, if not impossible, for a sport to attain success out of season. Baseball gets the summer, football the fall and winter, basketball the winter and spring. For a new league to find a season, the calendar has to be enlarged.
The Alliance of American Football begins play Feb. 9, 2019. That’s six days after Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta. So the new league won’t have to search for new fans. It will have to give football fans a reason to hang on when the NFL season ends.
I don’t know if there’s room for the AAF. But one of the league’s founders is Bill Polian, the former general manager of the Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts, and an ESPN football commentator.
If I were going to describe Polian in a word, it would “smart.” “Credible” also works. But it’s tough to believe his league will be.
Steve Spurrier, a great college coach at Florida and a good coach at South Carolina, will coach the AAF’s Orlando franchise. One of the league’s player relations executives is Jared Allen, who finished his career in 2015 as a Carolina Panther.
Finding talent won’t be a problem for the new league. Go to the Carolina Panthers’ training camp. Watch from the sidelines you don’t recognize and think, “Man, is that guy good.” And he is good. But he’s not good enough to play in the NFL.
The AAF probably can use him.
I understand the AAF’s premise. The NFL is the country’s most popular sport. Popularity has taken a hit the last two seasons. Some detractors contend the reason for the decline is players taking a knee during the national anthem.
That’s not the reason. The NFL was on an unsustainable trajectory of growth. It was a monolith that no other sport could impede. When Sunday afternoon and Sunday night and Monday night weren’t enough, the NFL claimed Thursday night, too.
There’s too much NFL. There also are parents that, wary of head trauma, no longer allow their children to play football. That hurts ratings. If the kids can’t play, why watch? If the kids don’t want to, fewer parents will.
I wish the new league luck. I can’t see it succeeding. But Polian can.