The latest attempt to keep football fans engaged without the NFL, the Alliance of American Football (AAF) kicked off last weekend.
The Saturday night prime time game that went to most of the country on CBS, with the San Diego Fleet taking on the San Antonio Commanders, either (depending on your source) narrowly outdid or was equal to the NBA game (Oklahoma City at Houston) that ran parallel to it on ABC in the ratings. The curiosity factor was surely high, as it was with the first rendition of the XFL 18 years ago. Time will tell if that curiosity remains for nine more regular season weeks.
Beyond a solid brand of football, and the success in the television ratings, here’s what we learned from the first weekend of the AAF.
1. Transparency is nice.
The AAF is allowing the audience to see the replay review official, and thus hear any debate between that person and the on-field referee. Calls won’t always be gotten right by that ultimate authority, just as we see in the NFL, but there’s a lesson for the NFL to learn here in terms of allowing the review process to be seen and better understood.
2. Christian Hackenberg is still a bad quarterback.
A second-round draft pick by the New York Jets in 2016, Hackenberg never took a regular season snap in two seasons before bouncing around last year. He started for the Memphis Express in the AAF Sunday afternoon, and proceeded to go 10-for-23 for 87 yards with an interception before being replaced in a shutout loss.
3. Marvin Lewis is not an exciting broadcaster.
The final game of the weekend was broadcast on NFL Network, with Lewis joining Dan Hellie and Maurice Jones-Drew in the booth for the Arizona Hotshots hosting the Salt Lake City Stallions. The former Bengals’ head coach had some insightful things to say, if you paid attention and didn’t fall asleep due to his lack of spark. For every Tony Romo success there’s a Jason Witten failure, so Lewis deserves some time to find his way as a broadcaster and the AAF is good way to get his feet wet. But someone needs to tell him it’s ok to speak up, and with some passion.
4. This just might succeed where others have failed.
The AAF has names you know attached to it, in coaching, league development and on the periphery of league operations via people who have been involved with or played in the NFL. Whereas other leagues, notable the USFL over 30 years ago, tried to compete with the NFL, the AAF seems committed to being the equivalent of Triple-A in baseball in allowing players to get a second chance and get noticed.
Sports gambling is set to become more widespread in the United States, as states adopt legislation to allow it, so people will need something to bet on. The AAF, and the new rendition of the XFL that’s coming in 2020, can fill that void during some slower months on the calendar.
5. The logos are cool.
We’ve technically been able to see the logos and colors for each AAF team for a while, but seeing them on the field made it real. My personal favorite is the Memphis team’s color scheme and logo, with the Atlanta Legends coming in second.