Serious Thoughts on the AAF

Last time out, I penned a bit of satire about the AAF, writing from the perspective of a fan who acts as if his team has been around forever.

But I do have some non-tongue-in-cheek thoughts about the league and what we've seen so far, and I'm looking at it through the lens of longterm viability.

The early prognosis is not good. In just two weeks, the league already found themselves needing to be bailed out to the tune of a quarter of a billion dollars. They're being sued.

None of these problems are necessarily fatal (although being that far short on cash after such a short time suggests bad planning and fly-by-night financing that could be avoided), and ratings apparently have been decent. But I want this league to succeed because frankly, I want year-round football, and I do believe there's a way to make it work.

Each attempt at spring football tries to correct on the issues and problems of leagues past. It seems the number one rule new leagues emphasize is, "Do not try to compete with the NFL — the USFL tried that and look what happened to them!"

Now, I'm not suggesting that upstart leagues like the AAF (and the XFL next year) do try to slay the dragon that is the NFL. But why not at least try to lure a big player name or two, one that can still play in the NFL? Give each team a salary cap exception or two, a la Major League Soccer. If the USFL's main problem was that they signed big stars, then I'm not sure why they lasted longer than some upstart leagues since then, like the XFL and the Fall Experimental Football League, that made no such attempt.

Another idea: make the AAF strictly regional. Make the XFL strictly regional, too. I think that the model here is Canada. The NFL is plenty popular in Canada, arguably more so, or even much more so, than the CFL. Yet the CFL continues to tick along, because it is, at least in a continental sense, regional. It is uniquely and exclusively Canadian, except for the players.

So maybe there is more money to be made and more of a chance of survival over the long-run if the AAF was just playing for a Midwest championship or a West Coast championship or most viably, a Southeast championship.

As far as the product on the field, I'm finding the AAF to be just fine. The rule differences, like a 4th-and-12 shot in lieu of an onside kickoff attempt, is great! But I would make one change, and that's to reinstall an extra point attempt; with no kickoffs and no extra points, the only role a kicker has to play is on field goals.

In the AAF, you must go for two after every touchdown. What I don't like about that rule is there is no strategic choice for a coach to make after touchdowns. NFL and college football coaches have been able to decide whether to go for one or two (except starting in the third overtime, for college football) for 25 years now. It seems antiquated, repressing, and discomfiting for that choice to be taken away.

I think the NFL has the right idea here (what a rare thing to say!). I like the 33-yard extra points. But if you don't want to do that (why? There seems to be this convention that people hate kicking plays, but while they're clearly not as fun as scrimmage plays, is there any evidence the world loathes extra points?) at least create another option; say, 2 points from the 2-yard line or 3 points from the 10-yard line,

So there you have it; make it regional, sign some stars, bring back post-touchdown choices, and rake in the dough.

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